Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘peace agreement’

Why tomorrow’s Middle East talks will fail

Posted by sanityinjection on September 21, 2009

In the field of international relations, I don’t think there is any topic on which more nonsense is written that the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Most of the columnists and journalists who write about it have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, and as a result, most of the public is very badly informed about the reality of the conflict.

In this context, Politico’s Laura Rozen stands out for her weekend column on this week’s three-way talks between President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rozen displays unusual insight in breaking down the diplomatic moves leading up to the talks and the motivations of each of the players. To sum it up: This is talking for the sake of talking, and not for the sake of accomplishing anything. For Obama, it’s the emptiest sort of grandstanding – trying to show that he is being effective on foreign policy with a show of sound and fury that signifies nothing. He wants Americans to believe that simply getting the parties talking is a great achievement.

Ultimately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not fundamentally different from any other. It continues as long as one or both sides feel that they have as much to gain from intransigence as they do from compromise. Only when both Israel and the Palestinians feel there is more to be gained from reaching an agreement can progress be made. That’s not a condition that can be created by Obama, the United States, or anyone other than the two sides themselves. The US definitely has a role to play in helping to broker a deal if and when the parties are really ready for one. (The broad outlines of a permanent settlement of the conflict have already been sketched in great detail by non-governmental Israelis and Palestinians working together, but there is no official buy-in.) President Obama can use his clout to drive Netanyahu and Abbas to the negotiating table. But no amount of US pressure can force them to get serious about making peace if they can’t arrive there with motivation of their own.

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Middle East Peace: 30 year anniversary of Camp David Egypt – Israel peace treaty

Posted by sanityinjection on March 25, 2009

Tomorrow, March 26, marks the 30th anniversary of the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that sealed the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Today, Egypt and Israel are hardly the best of friends, and animosity remains especially among the Egyptian populace. But consider this: During the 30 years leading up to the Camp David Accords of 1976, Israel and Egypt fought four wars. Since then, they have fought zero. And, since Egypt was always the engine of Arab military operations, Israel has also fought zero wars with the combined Arab nations since 1976 – only smaller actions against Lebanon and Palestinian groups. Also as a result of the treaty, both Israel and Egypt have benefited from billions of dollars in US aid.

By any reasonable standard, then, the treaty has been a success. And a rare one for the hapless Carter Presidency. Carter’s genius lay not in his brilliant diplomatic efforts, but rather in his ultimate realization, after multiple failures to broker a deal, that an agreement had to come from the Arabs and Israelis themselves, and could not be imposed on them by the US or anyone else. So Carter, a deeply faithful Christian, did a very un-Christian thing: He locked Begin and Sadat in a room together and wouldn’t let them out until they’d made some progress. And the rest is history.

Much remains to be done, of course. Israeli-Egyptian relations remain cool, although the nations do communicate regularly and frequently and participate in military, academic, scientific and agricultural exchanges. Egypt remains deeply committed to the cause of its Palestinian brethren (literally – many Palestinians have Egyptian ancestry), often serving as a go-between between Israel and groups such as Hamas with whom direct talks are not possible. It’s hard to imagine warm and friendly relations between the two countries absent a solution to the Palestinian question. Nor does the prevalent anti-Semitism in Egypt, tacitly encouraged by the government, contribute to improved relations.

Still, the Egypt-Israeli peace agreement serves as a model on which other agreements, such as the one Jordan signed in the 1990s, can be based. It included the principle (and indeed, the reality in Sinai) of swapping “land for peace”. Those who question the value of this formula need only do two things: visit Sharm el-Sheikh and see the tourist trade Egypt now benefits from as a result of regaining the Sinai, and visit the largely unfenced Egypt-Israeli border and consider how much more Israel benefits from not having a hostile enemy on its southern border than it would have from scattered settlements.

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